Is sunscreen part of your everyday skincare routine? If it’s not, maybe it’s time to consider adding it to your morning repertoire. While conventional sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all, I personally prefer using non toxic sunscreen brands whenever possible. Bonus if its packaged in eco-friendly materials, too.
Below I’ve included a list of non toxic and “reef-safe” sunscreen brands you might consider trying out.
But first, a few facts.
Why opt for reef-safe sunscreen?
It is estimated that every year, anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 tons (!) of sunscreen washes into our oceans and deposits in coral reef areas, with the greatest damage found in popular reef areas in Hawaii and the Caribbean. According to Be Reef Safe, it is estimated that more than 60% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk.
There are numerous reasons as to why our coral reefs are being threatened — climate change, unsustainable fishing, land-based pollution, coastal development, disease, and invasive species. So please note, I am not advocating that reef-safe sunscreen is the one and only solution to saving our reefs!
But, as shares the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, scientists have discovered that certain chemical ingredients found in our sunscreen products are also harming the coral on our reefs.
How is sunscreen harming our reefs?
“Researchers testing the effects of sunscreen on corals,” reports the National Park Service, explain that chemicals in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, “can awaken coral viruses. The coral then becomes sick and expel their life-giving algae. Without these algae, the coral “bleaches” (turns white), and often dies.”
A separate study, published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, shares Consumer Reports, also found that “baby coral exposed to oxybenzone exhibited signs of distress, including coral bleaching, a condition that leaves coral vulnerable to infection and prevents it from getting the nutrients it needs to survive.”
Unfortunately, sunscreen ingredients have also been found to adversely affect other marine life. These chemicals impair the growth and photosynthesis of plants and algae.
In short, our coral reefs are at risk. And, while there is no one single solution when it comes to protecting them, i.e. again, sunscreen is obviously not the only cause leading to coral reef damage, using sunscreen that is free of harmful ingredients such as those listed below, is one simple way you can help protect coral reefs and aquatic life.
Potentially Harmful Ingredients You Want To Avoid In Sunscreen
The worst of the bunch…
Oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Hawaii has banned these two ingredients because of their harmful effects on the coral reef, specifically they cause bleaching. Bleaching has also been particularly prevalent in recent years due to rising sea temperatures. Not to mention this ingredient has been linked to disrupting hormonal activity in humans as well, i.e. the reproductive system and thyroid health. More research is currently being conducted on oxybenzone to help inform policy makers and manufacturers of coral-safe sunscreens.
Another sunscreen ingredient that may harm fish, corals, and other invertebrates is octocrylene, “a sunscreen ingredient that may generate the chemical benzophenone, a compound that’s a carcinogen and may have hormone-disrupting effects.”
While more research on nanoparticles needs to be conducted, there have been studies finding that nanoparticles, specifically those found in aerosols can potentially cause lung damage when inhaled and, when sprayed, can end up on the sand eventually making its way into our oceans.
A Note On Marine Life & Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is an ingredient often found in reef-safe mineral sunscreens. However, this ingredient may be potentially harmful to marine life. A 2014 study found that titanium dioxide in the water produced “significant amounts of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a strong oxidizing agent that generates high levels of stress on marine phytoplankton.” More research is being conducted.
Note: Some of the non toxic sunscreen brands on this list do include the ingredient titanium dioxide. This is because research has shown that as long as titanium dioxide is not inhaled, i.e. in aerosolized (spray on) sunscreens, it’s considered safe and a very effective ingredient against harmful UV rays . According to the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), “nano-TiO2 from sunscreens does not present any health risk when applied on the skin at a concentration up to 25%. However, the SCCS does not recommend the use of nano-TiO2 in formulations that may lead to exposure of the consumer’s lungs by inhalation (sprayable products and powders).”
- Opt for mineral sunblocks with zinc oxide. This mineral not only helps to block the sun’s rays by reflecting it away from the skin but it’s also not been found to harm reefs. Note: Minerals in a sunscreen must be considered “non-nano” (meaning bigger than 100 nanometers) in order to be considered safe for the ocean. If they are below 100 nanometers, the particles can be absorbed by corals.
Nano vs non-nano? Research around the nano vs non-nano is ongoing. According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) “The available evidence suggests that zinc oxide nanoparticles are safe to use as the UV filter in sunscreens applied to the skin. The committee judges that this is true for products containing up to 25 per cent of ZnO nanoparticles, and confirms that it still holds for products which contain larger particles of ZnO.” You can read more about it in their report here: “Are sunscreens using zinc oxide nanoparticles safe?“ The EWG also wrote a good piece about the confusion around nano vs non-nano as well. You can read more about it here: “Nano Particles In Sunscreen.”
- Make sure your sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
- Check out EWG’s sunscreen directory to see how your sunscreen brand ranks!
After reading about the potential risks of sunscreen, please don’t stop using it! Just be informed about the sunscreen you’re using.
Sun Protection Tips
1. Wear protective clothing:
Long sleeved shirts, pants, and long skirts will provide the most amount of protection. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), dark colors provide more protection than light colors. Also, if you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Tip: Look for clothing that protects against UV rays.
2. Make or find shade
Umbrellas (parasols) work wonders. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association – Dermatology, “Heavy, dark, opaque fabric blocks more UV rays than thin, sheer fabric, and the larger the umbrella, the more rays it can block. A study by dermatologists at Emory University in Atlanta found that standard rain umbrellas can block at least 77 percent of UV light.
3. Wear sun hats:
Sun hats are always a good idea and some are designed specifically with UVA /UVB rays in mind.
4. Limit your time in the sun:
If possible, try to limit the time in the sun – especially between the hours of 10 AM – 2PM, when the sun is strongest.
5. Wear sunglasses:
More than just a fashion statement, sunglasses help to protect your eyes from harsh UV rays. Also, choose sunglasses that block both UVA & UVB light.
6. Wear Sunscreen:
It’s important to note that sunscreen is just a filter – it does not block all UV rays, shares the ACS. For instance, “a higher SPF number means more UVB protection (although it says nothing about UVA protection). SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%.”
7. Check the UV-Index:
The UV index gives you an idea of how strong the UV light is in your area — scale ranges from 1 to 11+. A higher number means greater risk of exposure to UV rays and a higher chance of sunburn and skin damage. Find out your local UV Index forecast on the EPA’s website.
What about Vitamin D?
I do expose my skin to the sun without sunscreen protection every so often. During the summer though, because I tend to burn easily, I do try to limit my exposure to no more than 30 minutes without some form of sun protection. Also, I make sure to include a wide variety of Vitamin D-rich foods in my diet.
It’s important to note that how much Vitamin D your body can manufacture through exposure from sunlight depends on various factors, i.e. where you live, time of day, and skin color. If you’re concerned about your Vitamin D levels, talk to your doctor.
Non Toxic Sunscreen Brands
Disclaimer: Please note, some of the links included below are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission if you purchase through those links. Thanks so much for your support!
I’ve been a fan of Badger’s sunscreen for many years. This was one of the first brands I started using when I made the switch to non toxic sunscreen. Badger is a family-owned business run out of New Hampshire. They produce multiple products ranging from sunscreen and baby balm to bug repellents. While this sunscreen is harder to rub into my skin than others, it’s also been rated one of the more effective mineral-based sunscreens by Consumer Reports and is Protect Land + Sea Certified. I use this sunscreen when I know it’s going to be a long day in the sun!
- Protect Land + Sea certified sunscreen.
- Made with mineral zinc oxide.
- Baby & kid-friendly sunscreen options
- B Corp, Women-Owned, Family-friendly work environment
- Eco-friendly packaging materials made with solar power.
- Badger donates 10% of before tax profits to non-profit organizations that focus on the health & welfare of children
Sunscreen Price: $4.49 (lip balm) to $17.99 (Sport Mineral Sunscreen Cream)
While I haven’t personally tested Attitude’s sunscreen, I am an avid fan of their zero waste deodorant. It’s one of the few that actually work for me. So, when I saw they also carried sun care products I was pumped! Packaged in plastic-free cardboard tubes, this sunscreen is formulated with non-nano zinc oxide and free of harmful ingredients.
- Made with non-nano zinc oxide
- Plastic-free packaging
- Baby & kid-friendly sunscreen options
- EWG Verified
Sunscreen Prices: $14.95 (Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick) – $27.95 (Baby & Kids Mineral Sunscreen)
3. Earth Mama
From organic perineal balm to baby mineral sunscreen Earth Mama is here to support women along every step of their mothering journey. Founded in 2002 by Melinda Olson, a nurse turned herbalist, Earth Mama uses certified natural ingredients whenever possible, is plastic neutral, and EWG certified. Earth Mama sunscreen is made with non-nano zinc oxide and naturally occurring ingredients. They carry a wide variety of non toxic sunscreen options for the entire family including Kids Uber-Sensitve mineral sunscreen lotion for those in your life with sensitive skin.
- Made with non-nano zinc and naturally occurring ingredients
- Baby & kid-friendly sunscreen options
- Reef-friendly and non toxic ingredients
- Partner of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Sunscreen Prices: $9.99 (Baby Face Mineral Sunscreen Stick) to $19.99 (Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Lotion)
Think has a wide variety of sunscreen options for the entire family. Sun care products range from Think baby Safe Sunscreen, a safer alternative for protecting your baby from harmful UVA/UVB rays, to Think Sport’s Clear Zinc Face Sunscreen. Think sunscreens are made using non-nano zinc oxide, free of harmful ingredients, and are EWG verified. According to their website, “Think sunscreens are packaged in a tube made of environmentally friendly packaging that does not contain BPA, vinyl, or phthalates.”
- Made with non-nano zinc oxide, reef-safe, and free of harmful ingredients
- EWG verified.
- Think Social: Donates to non-profit organizations such as The LIVESTRONG Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and The Hunger Project.
Sunscreen Prices: $15.49 (Think Baby Safe Sunscreen) to $22.99 (Thinksport Safe Sunscreen – Family Size)
If you’re looking for a sunscreen that applies smoothly on your face without leaving white streaks, then you may want to consider Kinfield’s Daily Dew’s Hydrating Face Sunscreen. Out of all the facial sunscreens I’ve tried this is one of my favorites. It’s easy to rub in, moisturizing (without being greasy), and smells like vacation. Kinfield’s sunscreens are 100% mineral, made with non-nano zinc oxide and packaged in post-consumer recycled plastic (the tube and cap can be recycled along with your other plastic items). Each product is formulate without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances, and are vegan, cruelty-free, and Leaping Bunny certified.I also love that you can send back your finished beauty and personal care packaging (from any brand!) and Kinfield will recycle them.
(Discount: Use code TheWiseConsumer15 for 15% off any full priced, single item (no bundles))
- Made with non-nano zinc oxide
- B-Corp Certified, 1% for the Planet, Certified Plastic Neutral, HAWAII ACT 104 COMPLIANT,
- Minimal-waste packaging + send back recycling program for all empties
Sunscreen Prices: $26.00 (Daily Dew SPF 35) to $65.00 (The Sunshine Set)
SunTegrity is another non toxic sunscreen brand I regularly use. I’ve personally tested their Moisturizing Mineral Face Sunscreen & Primer (which is refillable!) and their UNSCENTED Mineral Body Sunscreen. I really like how easily both these products apply — they’re non-greasy and rub in nicely. More importantly, they’ve been super effective. SunTegrity’s products are made using non-nano size zinc oxide and high quality natural and non-toxic ingredients. SunTegrity was awarded “Champion” Status by the EWG & Compact for Safe Cosmetics and meets the FDA’s Broad Spectrum SPF 30 labeling requirements.
- Made with non-nano zinc. Free of harmful ingredients. No synthetic fragrances.
- Awarded “Champion” Status by the EWG/Compact for Safe Cosmetics
- Meets the FDA’s Broad Spectrum SPF 30 labeling requirements
Sunscreen Prices: $24.00 (UNSCENTED Mineral Body Sunscreen, 3 oz. Broad Spectrum SPF 30) $55.00 (Suntegrity Impeccable Skin, Broad Spectrum SPF 30)
7. Raw Elements
Raw Elements is EWG certified, reef-safe, titanium dioxide free and made using certified natural and organic ingredients. Products are packaged in recyclable materials, compostable paperboard, bio-based materials and infinitely recyclable aluminum packaging. In 2019 Raw Elements, founded World Reef Day – a call to action to consumers, businesses and organizations around the world to reflect on the delicate ecosystem of our ocean’s coral reefs and make simple changes to protect them. Raw Elements sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays (SPF 30) and are water resistant up to 80 minutes.
- Natural Products Association Certified. Made in USA. Leaping Bunny Certified.
- EWG top rated.
- Eco-Friendly Packaging. Reef-Safe.
- 1% for the Planet.
- Founded World Reef Day. June 1, 2019.
Sunscreen Prices: $16.49 (Face Stick SPF 30) to $24.99 (SPF 50 Face + Body Spray)
Oxybenzone and octinoxate free, this mineral based sunscreen is made using non-nano zinc oxide and provides high UVB/UVA protection (SPF 30-50). Sun care products range from sunscreen spray and lotion to tinted mineral sunscreen lotion. Babo Botanicals is also known for their EWG verified skincare line. Products range from shampoo and baby wipes to lip balms and sunscreen.
- 100% Ingredient Transparency, Uses certified organic ingredients whenever possible
- EWG Verified. B-Corp Certified. Made Safe certified sunscreens.
- Donates to environmental organizations
Sunscreen Prices: $12.50 (Baby Face Mineral Sunscreen) to $23.50 (Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray)
Made using non-nano zinc oxide, Kōkua Sun Care sunscreens are free of phthalates, artificial fragrance, and made using ingredients native to Hawaii. Their sunscreens provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB skin protection (SPF 30, SPF 50), are easy to apply, and are water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Sunscreen is packaged in the world’s first carbon negative and 100% recyclable sugarcane bio resin tubes
- Free of harmful ingredients
- Natural Ingredients native to Hawaii.
- Eco-friendly packaging
Sunscreen Prices: $15.00 (1oz Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen) to $30.00 (3oz SPF 30 Tinted)
10. Manda Naturals
Manda Naturals mineral-based non toxic sunscreen uses the highest quality, all natural ingredients. One reason I find this brand so unique is its use of the ingredient, Thanaka. Thanaka, made from the wood of a tree native to Myanmar, is according to Manda Natural’s website, a “more sustainable and regenerative ingredient and nature’s best solution for sunscreen. It has been used for over 2000 years as a natural sun protectant that preserves and beautifies the skin.” Their products are all packaged in eco-friendly materials and use non-nano zinc oxide (SPF 50).
- Eco-friendly and low-waste packaging materials
- Free of harmful chemicals.
- Organic and unique ingredients.
Sunscreen Prices: $28.00 (Organic Sun Paste (SPF 50)) to $32.00 (Organic Sun Creme (SPF 50))
Olita sunscreen is 100% made in the USA and uses organic, natural, high performing ingredients. Their sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF 30-SPF 50). Olita also gives back 10% of all their sales to the Coral Reef Alliance, a non-profit organization helping to save the world’s coral reefs by working collaboratively with communities, conservationists and scientists. Sun care products range from Olita Baby Organic Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 50) to Olita Mineral Sunscreen Stick (SPF 30).
- EWG verified, received #1 ratings in Skin Deep, and have been featured in the annual Guide to Safest Sunscreens
- NSF Organic Certification to ensure no pesticides, chemical fertilizers or other artificial agents were used in their production
- Ingredient transparency
- Donates to the Coral Reef Alliance
Sunscreen Prices: $12.00 (OLITA Kids Mineral Sunstick SPF30) to $20.00 (OLITA Organic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion)
12. Adorable Baby
Adorable Baby is a skincare company born from a passion for nature and a desire to harness its most powerful resources. Their sunscreen is made using non-nano zinc oxide and offers broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF 30). It’s also been rated for safety by the EWG, Environmental Working Group and can be found in the annual list of Best Scoring Sunscreens for Kids and Babies.
- EWG Verified, 100% Ingredient Transparency. Leaping Bunny Verified.
- Packaging made from recycled plastic.
- Supporter of Baby2Baby, a humanitarian organization providing children living in poverty with diapers, clothing and the basic necessities every child deserves.
Sunscreen Prices: $17.99 (Natural Baby Sunscreen SPF 30)
13. All Good
All Good sunscreens are made using non-nanoparticles zinc oxide and other safe, organic ingredients like buriti oil, aloe, and calendula. Sun care products range from SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray to SPF 50+ Kid’s Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick. All sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection (from both UVA and UVB rays).
- Sunscreen made with non-nano zinc oxide. 100% Ingredient Transparency.
- USDA Certified Organic.
- Leaping Bunny Certified. B-Corp Certified.
Sunscreen Prices: $10.00 (SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen Butter, 1 oz.) to $20.00 (SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray, 6 oz.)
AO Organics Hawaii Sunscreen stick is made using organic and reef-safe ingredients. Packaged using eco-friendly materials and handmade in small batches. Sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF 30).
- Sunscreen made with non-nano zinc oxide. Ethically Sourced Ingredients.
- Handmade in small batches. Eco-friendly packaging.
- Woman & Native Hawaiian Owned.
- Reef Safe.
Sunscreen Price: $15.00 (Sunscreen Tin (SPF 30)) to $28.00 (Liquid Reef-Safe Sunscreen (SPF 30))
15. Surf Durt
This natural, antioxidant-rich sunscreen brand creates products that both nourish and protect your skin without harming the ecosystem. Free of harmful chemicals and made using non-nano zinc oxide, Surf Durt sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB skin protection (SPF 30) and is packaged in reusable bamboo containers lined with an aluminum interior lining. In addition, a portion of proceeds are donated to environmental and social non-profit organizations such as Water For People, Coral Gardeners, and Trees for The Future.
- Reef-Safe ingredients. 100% ingredient transparency.
- 80 Minute Water Resistance. Zero-Waste Packaging.
- Supports charitable organizations.
Sunscreen Prices: $24.99
Organic sunscreen made from locally sourced natural ingredients. This reef-safe sunscreen is made using non-nano zinc oxide and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF 35-40). I love how Little Hands Hawaii provides various skin tone shades for each of their sun care products, ranging from Light Neutral (Pink undertone) to Dark (Brown undertone). Sunscreens are packaged in either recyclable tins or compostable earth-friendly push-up stick.
- Sunscreen made with non-nano zinc.
- Locally made in Hawaii.
- Plastic-free packaging.
Sunscreen Prices: $8.00 (Travel-size Mineral Sunscreen) to $20.00 (Body & Face Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 35))
17. Mama Kuleana
Mama Kuleana is 100% biodegradable sunscreen made in Maui, Hawaii. This non toxic sunscreen brand is packaged in 100% plastic-free, biodegradable material and provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF 30).
- Ocean, river, lake safe sunscreen made using non-nano zinc oxide.
- Plastic-Free. Compostable Packaging.
- Small Business.
Sunscreen Price: $21.00 (Single Mama KULEANA Reef Safe Sunscreen)